My book on radiance

I assumed it would take me about a week to complete The Guidebook to Philosophical Life. After all, it was to be a short book addressed “only to those with ears to hear.” And now for the irony: it took over a month to finish. Go on and laugh.

I have my reasons. One was that the short book became a medium-length book, each chapter growing sections (e.g., 2.1) and subsections (e.g., 4.2.3). The other was that my conversation partners needed me in ways I could not have imagined when I first began the book. Since the latter is written to and for them and is offered in the form of a gift, it made perfectly good sense for me to put it down whenever they wrote or called or showed up.

I wanted to be able to put the book down in mid-sentence and I did so many times. When I finished the book at the end of last week, something interesting, perhaps epiphanic occurred: I realized that the Guidebook was nothing but a “prolegomenon” to the book on radiance that I am now philosophically prepared to write. A prolegomenon consists of preparatory exercises without which any future inquiry on, say, radiance could not get underway. You climb the ladder and, once you get onto the roof, you kick the ladder away and gaze upon the stars. In the final paragraphs but one, I wrote,

This chapter on radiance has been one of the shortest because there is not much more to say. Everything we have written and thought has led to this point and now–and now the end (the closing and the culmination, the final end and highest state) has been reached, at least in words. And now it is up to us to live radiantly.

We could say that everything up to this point has been implicitly radiant and we would be right. We could also say that everything up to now has been no more than a wordless groping toward an ineffable radiant way of being and we would also be right. We could say both because both would be right. Or we could say that radiance is love, pure and simple, and we would be true and true again.

All this seems right, most especially the claim about living radiantly, and yet I am not satisfied by that bone-in-the-throat adverb implicitly. I find I am hungry still and so I want to inquire, in a phenomenological vein, further into

1. whether an implicit understanding of radiance can be made more explicit (a question of perspicuity);

2. whether it can be shown more clearly how a radiant way of being hangs together (a question of systematicity);

3. what a radiant love would be like (a question of qualia).

My italics denote my feverishness, my feverish urge to inquire. I jotted down notes about further expositions of radiance (the beautiful and the good), about genre (prospective love letters, literary sketches, praisesongs), about higher forms of spiritual exercise (left blank for now). The fever abated some without going away.

Most importantly, I am overcoming my year-long hang-up on the question of why write a book today. Before now, I could not reply with a good enough answer because I had none. Whom would this be for? To whom would it be addressed? I did not know. The answer, I know now, is that this book on radiance will be written for me, addressed to me–to me and my future lover. It will be part of my search for her. I will not write it and give it to her. I will write her into it.


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